2020 was not an easy year by any stretch. When the first COVID-19 lockdown hit in the spring people were left feeling worried and isolated from their communities, friends and family. However, when times are hard we see people rise to the challenge; to help provide crucial services for those in need and make the best of a bad situation.

In the summer of 2020 we launched a search to find 21 people that showcased what Coventry is all about, friendship, support, love and a desire to be a force for good in the world.
We asked people to nominate those who were going above and beyond without recognition or asking for anything in return. Outstanding individuals in Cov who had dedicated their time to helping others.

We received over 100 nominations each one worthy of recognition, but 21 stood out as truly incredible. From shop owners putting the good of the community before profit, to a schoolgirl using her time to raise money for charity. These people are #OurCovHeroes.

To say thank you to these incredible people we worked with photographer Ayesha Jones to take their photos and display them on shop windows in the city centre. We were overwhelmed with support from the businesses and the council, who wanted to help share these important stories.

As well as the portraits of the 21 people selected for #OurCovHeroes, five ‘stand out heroes’ have had illustrations created of them by artist Ana Jaks, which were also featured in city centre windows.

To say thank you to these heroes we created a zine for them to keep as a reminder that they are #OurCovHeroes. You can see the zine here.

Here are #OurCovHeroes shot by Ayesha Jones

Aileen O'Shea

Coventry City Council registrar who, for 16 years, has supported people with births, marriages and deaths. She retired in May and one of her final acts in the job was to give a couple their last wish by organising for them to be married on the ITU Ward at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. 

Inderjit Singh

Inderjit worked flat out last winter hosting the Coventry Emergency Shelter at Langar Aid House, Spon End, which looked after up to 20 rough-sleepers each night from November to February. As this finished and the country went into lockdown, he took it upon himself to feed around 200 hundred vulnerable individuals, seven days a week.

Rich Brandist

A local DJ who received 21 separate nominations after giving up every Thursday and Saturday evening to play records and games with the local community. On top of that, he has organised fundraisers for local community causes.

Ray Wilson

Unsung hero Ray helped to turn a modest patch of woodland that runs parallel to the Kenilworth Road into a quiet haven for people during lockdown. Ray and his team have since set up Kids’ Picture Trails giving families the chance to spot bears, hungry caterpillars, greedy crocodiles, Gruffalos and Wonky Donkeys.

Mr Rai

Potters Green shopkeeper who has gone out of his way to help the local community, delivering groceries and prescriptions to the elderly and vulnerable. When others were increasing the price of hard to obtain items – such as hand sanitiser, flour and toilet roll – he bought in bulk and offered them free to customers.

Anna-Marie Corbett

‘A beacon of light for Canley’, Anna-Marie is the Centre Manager at the Canley Community Centre. She works tirelessly as a volunteer to ensure every member of the community is represented and cared for, and provides a safe space for children and young people. As well as that, Anna-Marie runs the Canley Food Hub which has 80 families subscribed to it.

Kelly Iles

Owner of food business The Barn Kitchen – who delivered 60,500 free meals to local hospitals for NHS staff during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

Chaitrali Chitre

Runs a community group and moved sessions online during lockdown to help keep people active, including in music, dance, arts, cookery and mental health awareness. As well as this she empowered women in the community to show off their talent.

Loraine Masiya Mponela

An asylum seeker who, despite being worried about her own situation, has helped others who are looking for funds, organised housing for the homeless and food for the hungry. She organises meetings, petitions and writes articles on the situation.

Lisa Chant

A care home worker who went above and beyond to ensure that a husband got to spend the final hours with his wife (a care home resident) before she passed away. Lisa collected him in the early hours of the morning to make sure he got to see her.

Sheila Tatum

A retired palliative care nurse who volunteered to go into Abbey Park Nursing and Dementia Care Home to do everything from cleaning to answering the phone. She became a rock to staff with her empathy and understanding during some of the most difficult times in the Covid-19 crisis.

Gary Bratt

Garry proved to be an inspiration for the local community by knocking on doors and offering to do shopping and fetch prescriptions. He also ran ‘street’ events where people would put chairs at the front of the houses and Garry would organise bingo, quizzes and games to keep spirits up.

Brett Kowalski

A Royal Mail HGV lorry driver who has been capturing the beautiful side of life through photography. He manages an online photographic community to help inspire others and share work.

Manjit Rehal

Chartered counselling psychologist Manjit works as a senior outreach practitioner with CRASAC. She has conducted safeguarding and awareness with rape and abuse sessions for women and given her time voluntarily to make women stronger.

PC Shaun King

The police officer was coming off duty at 3am (already four hours late) when he noticed an unusual light between some houses. He investigated and discovered a car fire so immediately called the fire brigade. The fire service said the fire was just a few minutes away from setting fire to a house, endangering the lives of several families with children.

Val and Nigel Elvin

The couple ensured community spirit was alive and well in Harewood Road, Whoberley. Nigel painted coping stones for residents after being furloughed and then repainted street signs, planted flowers and become the area’s ‘chocolate fairy’ by leaving unexpected surprises on doorsteps. Val baked scones, cakes and shortbread and gifted them to neighbours in need of some cheer.

Rachelle Morgan

After having periods of homelessness and vulnerability herself, Rachelle is giving support to others. She is a valued member of the Anchor Centre’s patients’ participation group, supporting and encouraging others in the group. She has supported one other member to continue attending and to attend other groups in the city.

Caroline Sinclair

After being furloughed, Caroline decided to put her time to good use and decided to set up a foodbank in the Cheylesmore area. Despite being unable to secure a grant, she pressed ahead anyway and, within eight weeks, was helping more than 30 families in need of food.

Evie Barriscale

A ten-year-old who decided to fundraise at the height of lockdown. She created heart-shaped magnets and keyrings that she sold for a small fee, raising £208 for the Children’s Air Ambulance.

Juliah Galliers

A nurse working in life-saving cardiac surgery at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. Not only does she work long shifts, she’s often on-call at all times of day and night as her skills are much in demand. She is compassionate and calm in an emergency and is described as bringing ‘enormous joy’ to everyone who knows her.

Mike Stott

After the murder of Jo Cox, Mike set up a street event for his neighbours and they’ve grown in size ever since. During lockdown, he set up a local WhatsApp group to keep people ‘together’ and hand-delivered messages to those who didn’t have access to technology. He organised a street-wide clap for carers and a 1940s party to commemorate St George’s Day.

Our 'stand out' Hero Illustrations by the incredible Ana Jaks.